Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Doctor Who: The Time Crash of Five Doctors in 2013?


Ah, you can already hear Whovians all over the world salivating at the mere idea...

In a recent interview, Doctor Who's fondly-remembered Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, has stirred up hopes of a new multi-Doctor story for the show's 50th anniversary in 2013 with comments that he would be willing to return for a special reunion episode.  McCoy, who still reprises the role of the Seventh Doctor in new audio adventures for Big Finish Productions, remarked that modern computer technology could be used to bring back earlier Doctors who have died in some capacity or make the older surviving Doctors appear thin again.

This news comes on top of Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor, debuting a new Eighth Doctor costume for vague "promotional purposes" last month at a convention in New Zealand.  Naturally, no official word of a potential "The Eleven Doctors" reunion special has been announced for 2013, but it does seem that the idea is becoming more of a possibility.  So if such a reunion special did happen, which of the eleven Doctors would we most likely see?

The First, Second and Third Doctors are sadly deceased, although William Hartnell's First Doctor was portrayed by actor Richard Hurndall in the 20th anniversary special "The Five Doctors," so recasting the roles is potentially an option.  Ideally, Patrick Troughton's son David and Jon Pertwee's son Sean would be natural choices to portray the Second and Third Doctors respectively if they were willing.

The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, is thankfully stlll with us but he'll be 79 years old in 2013, so his reprisal seems unlikely, although some type of vocal appearance or cameo as a different character isn't out of the question.

The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, recently reprised the role in 2007 for the Children in Need charity special "Time Crash," written by current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat and set between the episodes "Last of the Time Lords" and "Voyage of the Damned."  "Time Crash" also established an explanation for the aging of the actor, chalking it up to a by-product of being taken out of his timeline, which could be used to explain the appearances of other older Doctors from the original series.

The Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, will be 70 years old in 2013 and barely resembles his 1986 self as it is.  As with Tom Baker, though, a vocal appearance or cameo as a different character is certainly possible.

The Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy?  Well, obviously he's up for it, even though he'll also turn 70 in 2013.  His last physical appearance as the Seventh Doctor was in 1996 for the TV Movie, so provided some quality makeup, costuming and/or computer manipulation is utilized, McCoy's Doctor could be on the table.

The Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, turns 54 in 2013 but he still looks great.  I imagine we'd see McGann in this new Big Finish costume instead of his TV movie costume, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a very small price to pay to see him get one more shot at portraying the Doctor on screen.

The Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, is considerably more problematic.  As recently as June of this year, Eccleston remarked that he quit Doctor Who in 2005 because he "didn't enjoy the environment and the culture" that the crew had to work in and that he would have to "blind himself" to things he thought were wrong.  Some bad blood there, obviously, so the big question is whether Eccleston would be willing to set it aside for the sake of the reunion.  Unless I read something more encouraging from him between now and 2013, my own guess is that he wouldn't.

The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, should pretty much be a given unless there's a major schedule conflict that prevents him from returning.  Tennant is well-known as a fan of Doctor Who before he even took on the role in 2005, so I think the opportunity to appear in another multi-Doctor special would be just about impossible to resist.

So provided that Matt Smith is still the current Doctor in 2013, for what would be his fourth year, I think we're looking at a reunion special starring the Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, for a total of five, or with the First, Second and Third possibly played by someone else, making for a total of eight. 

Using just five Doctors would be more manageable in terms of story, while the other six could be referenced using various techniques involving old footage or CGI wizardry.  However, from a purely fannish standpoint, it would be more fun to see eight Doctors bickering with one another than five, especially if it helps introduce younger Doctor Who viewers to what was so appealing about the earliest Doctors.  Whatever happens in 2013, though, at least it means we'll have fifty years' worth of Doctor Who characters and stories to enjoy for many more years to come...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

DAMN Good Television -- YOUNG JUSTICE: "Independence Day"


Although it's been just under five years since the Teen Titans animated series ended, DC Comics' sidekick heroes have found a new home in the Cartoon Network series Young Justice, based loosely on the comic book series of the same name by Peter David and Todd Nauck and the current Teen Titans comic series.  And as those of you who follow the various DC animated projects might expect, this new series also plays fast and loose with standard DC Universe continuity, mixing the original Robin and Kid Flash, Dick Grayson and Wally West, together with the current Superboy and Aqualad.  Anyone attempting to reconcile this animated series with the Justice League Unlimited series is bound to wind up with a severe headache as well, so you're better off treating this as a completely stand-alone universe.

In the pilot episode written by Greg Weisman, "Independence Day," Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Speedy (Roy Harper) are brought to the Hall of Justice by their Justice League mentors after defeating various ice-themed villains Mr. Freeze, Captain Cold, Killer Frost and the Icicle.  The idea is to give the young sidekick heroes some additional privileges and access to Justice League headquarters, but nothing too vital, such as the orbiting headquarters The Watchtower.  This limited access doesn't sit too well with Speedy, who throws down his yellow archer's cap and storms off in an adolescent huff.

Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad are soon left to twiddle their thumbs as the Justice League goes off to do League stuff, but Robin, now graced with Tim Drake's computer hacking skills, uncovers some information that leads the team deep into Cadmus Labs.  There, a series of events introduces them to DC characters Guardian, Dubbilex, Blockbuster and most importantly, their new teammate Superboy.  Ultimately, the young heroes show the Justice League that they have something to contribute and the league agrees, setting them up with their own headquarters in Mount Justice, an additional member in Miss Martian, a "guardian" in League member Red Tornado, and promises of combat training by Black Canary and covert missions assigned by Batman.  Yes, that's right, Young Justice is now the black ops division of the Justice League.  If you've ever thought about the notion that Childrens Services should have a serious problem with the idea of adult superheroes intentionally endangering their young sidekicks, I really can't see covert operations helping matters much.

Since this was essentially the series setup episode, "Independence Day" handled the basics pretty well, introducing you to the main characters and laying out the series premise.  The previous Teen Titans series featured an Americanized anime style, but thankfully, the animation style in Young Justice is comparable to current direct-to-home-video DC animated projects.  The colors are sharp and vivid for Blu-Ray HD viewing and the linework is fluid enough that it doesn't feel cheaply made.

Weisman's script also keeps things moving nicely, with character banter that younger viewers will find entertaining even if it's not overly realistic.  Each team member has very distinct personality characteristics -- Robin is the adventurous go-getter/tech geek, Kid Flash is the impulsive comic relief (For some ungodly reason, it seems Flashes have to be comic relief), Aqualad is the driven and serious leader type (Sorry about that, Grayson), and Superboy is the innocent powerhouse trying to learn about himself and the world around him.   If there's any real problem with this first story, it's that the female team members are seriously downplayed.  Miss Martian doesn't show up until the very end in little more than a glorified "Hey, guys!  Here's Miss Martian!" cameo while future team member Artemis isn't even hinted at.  As for Wonder Girl...Well, I guess we'll see.

Overall, Young Justice has considerable potential and looks to be a very promising addition to DC Comics' long line of fondly-remembered animated projects.  The disappointing thing is, we have to wait until January 2011 for the next episode, but with promises of at least 135 characters from the DC Universe by episode sixteen and an announcement that Peter David is writing a couple of episodes, it sounds like it should be worth the wait.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

DAMN Good Comic of the Week -- TEEN TITANS #89

It's official...Damian Wayne is the new Guy Gardner.

Back in the day, Green Lantern Guy Gardner rose to prominence as a character in the pages of Justice League International, where he tormented his fellow team members with insults, obnoxious bravado and tactless criticism on a monthly basis.  Gardner's loutish behavior put him into conflict with various team members, even resulting in a legendary single knockout punch.  The point here, though, is that he also made the book considerably more interesting because of the conflict he created.  Over time, however, Guy has essentially been neutered as a character, becoming a far more mainstream hero than he once was.

But now, it seems more evident than ever that current Robin Damian Wayne has stepped into Guy Gardner's boots and the Teen Titans are the lucky group who gets to babysit him.  In "Bruised Egos," redundant Batman and Titans founder Dick Grayson asks the Titans to add Damian to their team in order to learn how to trust people.  The Teen Titans, with Ravager in particular, aren't exactly big fans of the idea, but Grayson convinces team leader Wonder Girl who basically tells the others to suck it up and deal.

So now that we have some inner team conflict to juice things up, writer J.T. Krul sends the Teen Titans off to face Barney, a genetically-augmented kid given considerable mental and psychokinetic abilities by a new villain named Doctor Caligan in the previous issue.  What follows is a standard Titans fight sequence that almost ends peacefully, until Damian abruptly steps in and stirs everything right back up, allowing Barney to escape.  Damian, true to form, remains oblivious to the potential repercussions of his actions.

What really sells this issue, though, is the stellar artwork by Nicola Scott.  After far too long of this series simply getting by month after month with mediocre artwork, it finally feels like DC Comics is making an effort to improve the book's quality.  Scott has a terrific grasp of how characters move, even in scenes where they're simply walking and conversing.  She also gives thought to their specific body types, particularly in her depictions of Dick Grayson with a leaner, more acrobatic physique compared against Superboy's more muscular frame.  The coloring by Jason Wright complements Scott's artwork as well, giving scenes such as Raven's otherdimensional realm an extra punch they might not have had with another colorist.

All in all, I'm starting to see some serious potential in this new creative team.  If they keep building on this initial momentum and deliver some well-crafted stories with some memorable villains, we could be looking at the Teen Titans' long-awaited return to greatness.  Here's hoping...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DOCTOR WHO: Memories of Time and Space


Forty-seven years ago today, in the first episode of the story "An Unearthly Child," two schoolteachers followed a strange teenaged girl and her curmudgeonly grandfather into a British police box and television history was made.  Doctor Who became a worldwide phenomenon in the years that followed, going through eleven lead actors, umpteen companions and all sorts of aliens and monsters, ultimately earning the record for the world's longest-running science-fiction series.

I first discovered Doctor Who in early 1984 at the age of 14.  My parents and I were visiting my aunt and uncle in Columbus one evening and while the adults were off playing Euchre, I was left alone to my preferred world of watching television while reading a stack of comic books.  As my fellow members of Generation X know, television options in 1984 were pretty damn slim, especially since my aunt and uncle didn't yet have cable television.  So I manually turned the channel knob (Yes, children...manually) in the hopes of finding something I could tolerate while reading my comics.

Since there were all of six stations -- ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and a couple of independent stations -- this didn't take very long but I ultimately settled on PBS as soon as I heard some spooky music and decided it was the most interesting thing on.  Some guys were digging around in a raging snowstorm and uncovered some sort of strange pod thing that they took back to their camp.  Satisfied enough with my programming selection, I stretched out on the living room floor and started reading one of my comics, but then became distracted when something weird happened on the television.  One of the guys was stung by a tentacle that erupted from the pod and he ended up becoming covered from head to toe in a creepy green fungus.  Also, some curly-haired guy in a big hat and a long scarf and his short brunette friend seemed pretty bothered about it, but whatever was going on, it was pretty weird and cool.  As I later learned, this was the classic Tom Baker era story "The Seeds of Doom," featuring Elisabeth Sladen as definitive companion Sarah Jane Smith.

Now, I would love to tell you what I thought about the rest of the episode, but my family's card game had ended and my parents and I left to go back home to Medina.  That could have been it for my lifelong Doctor Who obsession, but as fate (or general probability) would have it, I ended up in similar circumstances later that summer after turning 15.  On a boring Saturday afternoon, I was flipping channels at home (at least we had a TV with a remote), desperately looking for something to watch.  I looked through the newspaper channel guide and saw that Doctor Who, that strange show I saw before, was about to come on my local PBS station with an hour and a half long episode called "The Keeper of Traken."

As soon as I heard the opening starburst of Peter Howell's arrangement of the Doctor Who theme music, I became hooked forever.

That howling, synthesized music introduced me to the world of the Doctor, now looking older in Tom Baker's seventh and final season, his new companion Adric and the blue phone booth-looking machine called the TARDIS.  From there I met a young girl called Nyssa, who would soon become a companion as well, and learned about the Doctor's arch-nemesis the Master.  And when the story ended (in a cliffhanger of all things, the bastards!) with Nyssa's father Tremas becoming a newly regenerated Master, my jaw dropped and I simply had to tune in next week to find out what happened next.  Remember, back in the Stone Age, there was no handy-dandy internet where you could download the next episode or instantly look up what happened on Wikipedia or numerous Doctor Who reference sites.  No, you had to bloody wait an entire seven days.

So with seven days being a relative eternity to a 15-year-old, I somehow managed to tune in again for "Logopolis," Tom Baker's final adventure as the Fourth Doctor.  Once again, that crack-addictive theme music howled ooooooweeeeoooooooo in the living room and I was introduced to the Australian "mouth on legs," Tegan Jovanka, and a mysterious white figure called the Watcher who turned up at various ominous moments.  The Doctor and Adric received warnings from the TARDIS' Cloister Bell that something dangerous was going to happen, but for some reason, the Doctor was focused on fixing the TARDIS' Chameleon Circuit through something called block-transfer computation and I have no idea what all that means but it's awesome!  Eventually, Nyssa returned and joined Tegan and Adric to see the Fourth Doctor have a showdown with the Master atop a very slowly rotating satellite dish platform.  The Doctor disconnected a power cable that he ended up hanging precariously from and then suddenly, bizarrely, he saw Sarah Jane and some other people, along with the Master and some other villainous people.  And then -- Holy crap! -- he fell!  There he was, dying with his three companions surrounding him, until the Watcher came up and merged with him somehow, turning the Doctor into a younger, fair-haired guy who smiled and sat up like nothing had happened.

In the immortal words of Keanu Reeves...WHOA.

And that, as they say, was that.  From "Castrovalva" onward, I became a diehard fan of the Fifth Doctor -- my Doctor -- played by Peter Davison.  Davison's era became my defining period as a full-fledged Whovian, encouraging me to learn about all seven Doctors, all the companions, all the villains and monsters, and all the episodes.  I watched every week in full fan-obsessed mode, sitting through interminable PBS pledge drives, videotaping every episode the station was generous enough to air and tracking down any potential Doctor Who thing I could find, which in northeast Ohio, wasn't a whole lot.  And then, after my family briefly moved to Florida in 1989, my heart broke after learning that the show had been cancelled for some insanely stupid reasons.  It was the end...and the moment had not been prepared for. 

I received a brief glimmer of hope in 1996 with the TV Movie starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, but that faded upon learning that the backdoor pilot did poorly in the ratings and wasn't going to be picked up by FOX or the BBC.  With only Doctor Who Magazine to keep Whovians going during the Dark Times, Doctor Who fandom fully regenerated on September 26, 2003, when we got the announcement was made that Doctor Who was returning in 2005...

....and Rassilon willing, to stay.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

DAMN Good Movies -- HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1


Those lucky, lucky people who already follow me on Facebook know that I have a fondness for writing up movie reviews so I’ve decided to start posting them here.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet and don’t want it spoiled for you, then for cryin’ out loud, stop reading now.  If, however, you are wise enough to know that movie reviews with spoilers are always more fun and interesting than the ones without them…well, rock on.

So here we are, the penultimate Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.  It’s been a long, nine-year road to get to this point in the movie saga and needless to say, expectations are understandably high.  Unfortunately, returning director David Yates already suffered a big misstep with his previous film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so my big concern was whether we were in for more of the same.

To give the final novel in the series by writer J.K. Rowling its proper due, the decision was made to split it into two films which proved wise, in my opinion.  The book ridiculously comes in at over 750 pages, so there’s an important decision to be made of where to divide it into two films.  And unfortunately, the novel is so poorly structured and uneven, with a lot of pointless detail and drawn-out sequences between actual events that could and should have been trimmed out by any reasonably competent editor.

Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves, thankfully, trim away a lot of Deathly Hallows’  fat and gristle but because of the need to adhere closely to the final novel, there’s still far too much left on the plate.  Some very cool and entertaining scenes and filled in with overly long sequences (I’m looking at you, cross-country camping!) that make the film just draaaaaaaag at times.  Characters will stand around debating their various motivations or something and you sit there wishing they’d just GET ON WITH IT. 

It also doesn’t help that viewing this film requires you to be a master of all things Potter.  Any newbie jumping in with this film will be completely lost as little to nothing is explained from what happened before or who all these characters are.  That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it means that you’ll need to be current on your homework before seeing this movie.

The thing is, Deathly Hallows Part 1 isn’t a bad film and at times, it’s really quite good.  If you can survive all the unnecessary story padding, this was the most cinematic adaptation in the series so far.  The cinematography by Eduardo Serra is exquisite at times, making those endless, uneventful camping scenes at least pretty to look at.  In addition, there’s a beautifully animated sequence in the third act when Xenophilius Lovegood explains the significance of the Deathly Hallows.  The Potter series has stepped up its game, at least in terms of presentation if not narrative.

It helps that the themes in this film are more mature.  Characters die or are maimed throughout the film and you find yourself thinking back to the first film with Harry getting sorted into Gryffindor and playing Quidditch and realizing that this isn’t a kids’ fantasy series anymore.  Just as Harry Potter readers grew up with the books, now Harry Potter audiences are forced to grow up with the film adaptations.

Once again, though, we have a Harry Potter film that focuses primarily on the three lead characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione, leaving the rest of the cast to little more than glorified cameos.  Here’s what I feel stands out in this film…

HARRY JAMES POTTER:  At this stage of the game, playing Harry Potter has to be effortless for Daniel Radcliffe.  He gives Harry a hardened weariness in this film, showing him as determined to do what it takes to finish Voldemort while being worn down by all the crap that has happened to him and his friends up until this point.  Harry’s ready to end this, once and for all, even if it means stripping down to his underwear and diving into an ice-covered pond at night to retrieve a sword.

RON BILIUS WEASLEY:  I always enjoy seeing Rupert Grint as Ron.  He’s the regular guy you can relate to in all this wizardry nonsense, although here he ends up becoming Samwise Gamgee to Harry Potter’s Frodo Baggins.  Ron, like Hermione, is there to keep Harry focused on the task at hand, but also falls victim to the evil of the Horcrux locket in a pretty unsettling scene where he believes he sees Harry and Hermione making out with one another while naked.  I’m sure the so-called “family values” groups will love that one.

HERMIONE JEAN GRANGER:  Emma Watson gets to step up to the plate in a big way this time.  After Ron is written out of the story in a Horcrux-fueled jealousy huff, it’s Hermione who gets promoted to Chief Sidekick, urging Harry onward in their cross-country camping quest.  She’s the truly competent one who knows what she’s doing, but still ends up becoming someone for Harry to save every so often.

LORD “HE WHO MUST NOT BE CALLED TOM RIDDLE” VOLDEMORT:  Finally secure in his place as the Big Bad, Voldemort gets to sit at the head of the table of bad guys and call the shots.  However, because this isn’t the final film, he’s relegated to searching for the Elder Wand and being the film’s cliffhanger ending.  As he fires a bolt of magical energy into the air, I half-expected him to go all He-Man from Masters of the Universe and shout “I HAVE THE POWERRRR!”

RUFUS SCRIMGEOUR:  Finally making an appearance in a Harry Potter film is geek-favorite Bill Nighy.  Although cut from the adapation of The Half-Blood Prince, Scrimgeour gets to be the one who reads Dumbledore’s will to Harry, Ron and Hermione to give them their magical thingamabobs that pay off later on. 

BELLATRIX LESTRANGE:  Just like Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter also gets a promotion to Chief Sidekick, only for Team Voldemort.  With her street cred of killing Sirius Black, Bellatrix has become the second biggest threat so she gets to torture and threaten to kill Hermione.  More importantly, though, she adds another kill to her resume by being the one who throws a knife into Dobby’s tummy.

DRACO MALFOY:  Once Harry’s arch-nemesis, Draco has become a minor plot point now that Voldemort has moved in and taken over his family’s home as his Hall of Doom.  He gets to wince as Muggle Studies teacher Charity Burbage becomes snake food for Nagini and act conflicted about whether all of this bad guy stuff was really a good idea. 

LUCIUS MALFOY:  Another former threat reduced to henchman status, Lucius gets to hand over his wand to Voldemort for the aforementioned smoking of Charity Burbage.  Oh, and he also gets to look scared and conflicted about everything.

SEVERUS SNAPE:  After taking out Dumbledore in the previous film, Snape should be primed for this film but he merely gets to sit at the bad guy table and presumably bide his time for the final film.  He does get announced, however, as the new Headmaster of Hogwart’s, which would’ve been interesting if we had actually gotten to see Hogwart’s.

DOLORES UMBRIDGE:  Once the Big Bad of Order of the Phoenix, Imelda Staunton makes a nice, albeit brief return here as Umbridge.  As the head of the Muggle-born Registration Commission, she gets to head up the Joseph McCarthyesque “Are you now or have you ever been a Muggle” witch—errrr, Muggle hunt inside the Ministry of Magic. 

PETER “WORMTAIL” PETTIGREW:  Still rocking the silver replacement hand given to him by Voldemort, Wormtail continues his Grima Wormtongue-like underling role.  He, however, doesn’t get to sit at the bad guy table and merely gets to keep an eye on prisoners that eventually escape.

MUNDUNGUS FLETCHER:  For some reason unexplained in the film, the Order of the Phoenix lets this former Azkaban prisoner become one of the Harry Potter impersonator decoys used to get the real Harry out of Privet Drive.  He’s also the guy who gets the Slytherin’s locket Horcrux to Umbridge.  Essentially, he’s yet another superfluous character in Rowling’s narrative doing something that could easily have been done by someone else.

RUBEUS HAGRID:  Hagrid doesn’t get too much screen time in this one, but he does get to dust off the flying motorcycle that we haven’t seen since way back in The Sorcerer’s Stone to get Harry out of Privet Drive to safety.  He also gets a quick reunion with his girlfriend Madame Maxine at Bill and Fleur’s wedding.

XENOPHILIUS LOVEGOOD:  Future Spider-Man movie villain actor Rhys Ifans gets to play Luna Lovegood’s father.  His sole purpose in the movie seems to be to give Harry, Ron and Hermione background information on the significance of the Deathly Hallows and set up them for a pointless Death Eater assault to get the return of his kidnapped daughter.

LUNA LOVEGOOD:  After a couple of great appearances, Luna is relegated to a couple of brief cameos, once at the wedding and once as a prisoner at Malfoy Manor.  Hopefully, she gets more screen time in the final film.

FRED AND GEORGE WEASLEY:  The twins’ primary appearance is during the Harry Potter decoy sequence, but George gets his left ear severed in an unseen battle.  He does, however, get a very funny appearance later on with a toothbrush sticking out of the hole in his ear.

GINEVRA “GINNY” MOLLY WEASLEY:  Once again, the love of Harry Potter’s life gets absolutely nothing to do.  Ginny’s sole purpose for being in this film to give Harry a passionate kiss before the wedding that gets interrupted by one of her brothers.

ARTHUR AND MOLLY WEASLEY:  Arthur and Molly get another cameo appearance but simply as Order of the Phoenix members and for the wedding.  Molly does gets a bit more screen time to fret over her wounded son, George.

ALASTOR “MAD-EYE” MOODY:  Brendon Gleeson makes a welcome return as Mad-Eye as he leads the decoy operation with the Order, but then is killed off-screen and mentioned only in a far too quick “Oh, by the way, Mad-Eye Moody’s dead” explanation.

REMUS LUPIN AND NYMPHADORA TONKS:  Lupin and Tonks return for the Privet Drive decoy operation to reveal that they’re now married and Tonks is preggers, although that revelation is only implied.  Sadly, Tonks is no longer as hot as she used to be in Order of the Phoenix, especially with her fondess of banging middle-aged werewolves.

NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM:  Neville’s sole purpose in this movie is to tell Death Eaters that Harry Potter isn’t on the train going to Hogwart’s.  Seriously, that’s it.

ALBUS PERCIVAL WULFRIC BRIAN DUMBLEDORE:  Yes, he’s still dead.  However, he does make an appearance as a perfectly undecomposed corpse so that Voldemort can take the Elder Wand from his grave.

VERNON, PETUNIA AND DUDLEY DURSLEY:  The Dursleys get a quick cameo as they’re scene getting in their car to flee from Privet Drive.  That’s it.

DOBBY THE JAR-JAR BINKS ELF:  Dies.  Finally.  He does, however, get the most heroic death in the movie, at least the only one to have any real meaning.

KREACHER:  Doesn’t die, but stops being a jerk for unexplained reasons.

NAGINI:  Voldemort’s pet snake gets more screen time than most of the Potter cast, especially with a creepy sequence when she impersonates Bathilda Bagshot from inside her own corpse. 

HEDWIG:  Harry’s pet owl dies abruptly in an absolutely thankless death during Harry’s escape from Privet Drive.  Harry mentions that it appears as if she was trying to protect him, but then he makes absolutely no mention of her for the rest of the entire film.

All in all, I felt Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part 1  was a solid, albeit uneven, installment of the series.  It suffers from having to adhere closely to the first half of a poorly structured final novel, leaving little room for improvement.  However, it does provide sufficient raising of the stakes for the final showdown in Part 2 next summer and should be more entertaining if you watch both parts back-to-back.

And for anyone who might be wondering, here’s my personal ranking of the Harry Potter films:

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Seattle Police Encounter Real-Life Superheroes


Okay, this is a fun one...

The website Seattle PI has posted an article that Seattle police say that a group of people acting as real-life superheroes are patrolling the city streets to protect citizens from crime.  Calling themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement, the Seattle group is part of an organization called Real Life Superheroes that promotes superhero vigilante acitivity.  Members reportedly include the superheroes Thorn, Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88, Penelope and Phoenix Jones, the Guardian of Seattle.

According to the article, Phoenix Jones was nearly shot by police when he came running out of a darkened park wearing a black costume.  Jones' true identity is now known by Seattle police and he apparently is often driven around town by a young woman not in costume who stays in the car while Jones does his superhero thing.  He was interviewed by police detectives this month and even came to police headquarters dressed in most of his costume.  The full costume, it seems, was being repaired after Jones was supposedly stabbed while breaking up a drug deal, although the police claim that may not have actually been wounded.

In another case, police responded to a harrassment complaint and found Jones with four other men and one woman, all in ski masks and bandanas, facing a man making threatening statements while swinging a golf club around.  The group reportedly refused to press charges because they didn't want to identify themselves to officers, so their golf club-packing nemesis walked.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Doctor Who Night on THE LATE, LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON


In a gleeful fit of what can only be described as surreal madness, Craig Ferguson devoted an entire episode of CBS' The Late, Late Show to "Doctor Who Night."  Yes, for one night only, insomniacs all over mainstream America were introduced to the wonder that is the world's longest-running science-fiction series, Doctor Who.



All did not go as planned, however.  Ferguson opened the episode with a disappointing apology that his original plan posted on Twitter about a special musical rendition of the classic Doctor Who theme complete with dancers in costume and puppets had been cancelled because legal rights to use the theme music had not be cleared in time for the studio recording.  Yes, once again, William Shakespeare was proven right about lawyers.  Personally, I blame The Valeyard.

Still, Ferguson pressed on, making jokes about how the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure ripped off Doctor Who, comparing the concept of the Doctor's ability to regenerate his body into a completely new form to Cher, and suggesting an Odd Couple-like TV series starring his prop sidekick Geoff the Robot Skeleton and a Dalek that was positioned next to Geoff in the studio.  The Dalek, naturally enough, would be the Felix Ungeresque neat freak. 

Actor, writer, comedian and apparent Whovian Chris Hardwick was also on hand throughout the episode beginning with the tweets and e-mails answering segment.  Hardwick and Ferguson bantered on various subjects, including the hotness of current Doctor Who companion Amy Pond (as played by actress Karen Gillan) and Hardwick later offered up his girlfriend to Matt Smith simply because he's the Doctor.

Just over halfway through the episode, current Doctor Who star Matt Smith finally appeared following a clip from the episode "The Vampires of Venice" featuring the Eleventh Doctor encountering the Calvierri girls and demanding that they tell him their entire plan, which of course, fails to work.  An odd choice of a clip, in my personal opinion, considering Smith's more memorable performances in episodes such as "The Eleventh Hour" and "The Pandorica Opens."

Ferguson seemed more interested in goofing around with Smith than actually interviewing him, but Smith did mention Doctor Who's filming in Monument Valley, Utah for 2011's Series Six and that he was taking his run as the Eleventh Doctor "a year at a time" while hinting that he may return in 2012.

All in all, though, a very entertaining hour of television even without the Doctor Who theme musical number.  So Craig, how about having another "Doctor Who Night" with Karen Gillan to promote Series Six airing on BBC America in 2011?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Dalek Invasion of THE LATE, LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON

Well, they've invaded just about everywhere else so it was a matter of time, really.

On last night's episode of CBS' The Late, Late Show, host Craig Ferguson opened with a surprisingly fanboyish introduction of the classic Doctor Who menace The Daleks to mainstream America.



Ferguson reminisced about watching the Daleks on Doctor Who as a wee lad, discussing their various features and the now-thankfully-obsolete stairs weakness, and was even prone to hugging it as if he was former Doctor Who companion actress Katy Manning.  (You non-Whovians out there can Google that reference for yourselves, although be aware it's Not Safe For Work.)

Tonight's episode of The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson should be even more promising, with the scheduled appearance of none other than the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith.  Just think, a current Doctor appearing on a mainstream U.S. late-night talk show...Madness.  Absolute madness.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Official -- Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic Con 2011


Considerable rumblings began surfacing on the internets last weekend during Mid-Ohio-Con 2010 but it's now official -- Wizard World has assimilated Mid-Ohio-Con into the Wizard Collective, making them the new showrunners for 2011.  Some dreaded the news, others saw potential for growth, but one thing is certain...There is no stopping them; Wizard World will soon be here.  And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords and their delightful press release:

Wizard World Acquires Mid-Ohio-Con

Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic Con Set for October 22-23, 2011

Headline Guests Adam West, Burt Ward, Rob Liefeld Announced for 2011

NEW YORK and COLUMBUS, Ohio, November 13, 2010 – Gareb Shamus, CEO of Wizard Entertainment, today announced the acquisition of Mid-Ohio-Con. The show will make its inaugural appearance on the Wizard World Tour circuit on the weekend of October 22-23, 2011 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH.

“The acquisition of Mid-Ohio-Con gives us an even stronger presence in the key Midwest market,” said Shamus. “We are excited to have the opportunity to build from the great foundation of Mid-Ohio-Con, which has consistently delivered the best in comics, celebrity and pop culture entertainment for 30 years running.”

“We are thrilled to join the Wizard World Tour,” said James Henry, Managing Director of Mid-Ohio-Con. “We are excited to work with Gareb and the Wizard World team to produce Mid-Ohio Comic Con and we are confident that this partnership will result in a show that will delight fans, creators and exhibitors alike in 2011 and beyond.”

Wizard World Mid-Ohio Comic Con announced its first slate of guests for 2011, which includes Batman stars Adam West and Burt Ward as well as fan-favorite Image Comics creator Rob Liefeld. “I'm in,” said Liefeld. “I've never been to Mid-Ohio before....make it a big deal!” Stay tuned for additional headline guest announcements in the coming months.

Mid-Ohio-Con is one of America’s longest-running and most successful comic book and pop-culture conventions, carrying on a fun and family-oriented tradition of bringing fans of all ages together with leading comic book writers and artists, film and television stars and creators, and publishers and retailers from across the nation.

2010 marked Mid-Ohio-Con’s 30th anniversary show which included guests of honor David Finch and Adam Hughes along with featured media guests Michael Berryman and Lou Ferrigno and more than 100 creators from the worlds of comics, film, gaming and television. The show had record attendance and has received acclaim from exhibitors, fans and guests as the best in its long history.

Join tens of thousands of fellow fans as they converge at the Greater Columbus Convention Center at Mid-Ohio Comic Con to celebrate the best in pop culture. Columbus’ Comic Con brings it all - Movies, Comics, Toys, Video Gaming, Games, TV, Horror, Wrestling, MMA, Original Art, Collectibles, Anime, Manga, & More! This is Ohio’s longest running and most widely attended Comic Con! Brought to you by the group who produces the most widely attended Comic Con tour!

It's only been one week since the 2010 Mid-Ohio-Con and already considerable changes can be seen on the Wizard World site for the 2011 convention.  Some slightly-higher profile media guests have been announced -- Adam West and Burt Ward from the '60s Batman television series, along with Walter Koenig, Chekov from the original Star Trek and Bester from Babylon 5.  Also, comics professionals Phil Jimenez, Mike Grell and Rob Liefeld have been listed, making this the first time ever that Jimenez and Liefeld will appear at Mid-Ohio-Con.

Unfortunately, the really bad news is on Wizard World's Mid-Ohio-Con ticket page, where the price for a 2-day weekend ticket has now jacked up to $40 from 2010's $25 at the door, and the new price of $25 for a Saturday or Sunday single-day ticket.  There's also a note at the bottom that says "Save $5 by ordering your ticket in advance," which makes me wonder if the full price at the door will be $45 for both days and $30 for one day.

Obviously, we're only a week into building up for the 2011 con, so I'm sure there will be much more news to come down the road.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

PSYCH's DAMN Good TWIN PEAKS Tribute

It is happening again...

The David Lynch and Twin Peaks news site Dugpa.com has posted new pictures from the USA Network series Psych's upcoming episode "Dual Spires," a 20th-anniversary tribute episode to the classic ABC series Twin Peaks that aired from 1990 to 1991.

The episode is scheduled to air on Wednesday, December 1st at 10 p.m. EST and will feature several actors from Twin Peaks and even former Twin Peaks singer Julee Cruise performing the Psych theme song.  WOW, BOB, WOW!

And look, there's even a handy press release straight from the USA Network...

USA NETWORK’S “PSYCH” MARKS “TWIN PEAKS” 20TH ANNIVERSARY
WITH A ‘DAMN FINE’ TRIBUTE EPISODE ON WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1

Series Originals Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Ray Wise, Robyn Lively,
Lenny Von Dohlen and Catherine Coulson to guest star


NEW YORK, NEW YORK – October 15, 2010 – When PSYCH returns for its fall run in November, viewers will be treated to a “Twin Peaks”-inspired episode scheduled to premiere on Wednesday, December 1 at 10/9c. Entitled “Dual Spires,” the episode celebrates the 20th anniversary of the cult favorite with guest star casting that includes Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Ray Wise, Robyn Lively, Lenny Von Dohlen and Catherine Coulson. Series Star James Roday serves as co-writer along with Bill Callahan.

The episode kicks off with Shawn (Roday) and Gus (Dulé Hill) receiving a mysterious e-mail inviting them to the annual Cinnamon Festival in Dual Spires, a quirky Northern California town nearly invisible on the map. When they arrive the pair quickly find themselves embroiled in the mysterious death of local high school student Paula Merral. As Shawn and Gus unravel the many secrets of the town, they meet several local residents including town doctor/lawyer/veterinarian Donna Gooden (Sheryl Lee), Sheriff Andrew Jackson (Lenny Von Dohlen), proprietors of the local diner Robert and Michelle Barker (Dana Ashbrook and Robyn Lively), the mysterious Woman with Wood (Catherine Coulson) and enigmatic bookish beauty Maudette Hornsby (Sherilyn Fenn). The pool of suspects proves to be deeper than suspected as Shawn and Gus must work to figure out who killed Paula Merral. Ray Wise reprises his role from last season as Father Westley.

Additionally, songstress Julee Cruise, who performed music during the original run of “Twin Peaks,” has signed on to perform the PSYCH Theme Song for the episode. The landmark series, that fashioned a widespread cult following, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Let's rock!

Doctor Who: The Invasion of Sex


Once relegated to the realm of indulgent fan fiction, the subject of sex was rarely addressed in Doctor Who during the show's original run from 1963 to 1989.  However, beginning with the 1996 TV movie starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, we've now had four consecutive Doctors either intentionally or unintentionally making out with their respective companions through various story conveniences. 

In this past Series Five, companion Amy Pond, as played by Karen Gillan, even takes things considerably further by openly propositioning Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor in the episode "Flesh and Stone."  This, rather predictably, bothered some fans of the show and in a new interview for Vulture, current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat addresses some of the criticism and also discusses the Doctor's sex life, those darn internets and what's coming up for character River Song.

On the introduction of sexual tension:

I just thought it would be, you know, Bad Girl in the TARDIS. They’ve always been so well behaved, those girls! I just thought, I haven’t met any girls like that. Most of the girls I know would just jump the Doctor as soon as they look at him. I said, It’s time we have one of those.

I think if a man and a woman go through a life-or-death experience and they’re both young and attractive, that’s really quite plausible. In fact, you’d really have to ask why it hasn’t happened before in Doctor Who. I just thought it would be funny. ‘Cause the Doctor is used to deflecting people who are madly in love with him, but he’s never had to deflect someone who has a much shorter and more passionate agenda.

On the Doctor's ability to have a sexual relationship:

We know that he had a family once. And we could pretend that he doesn’t have an eye for the pretty girl, but you’d be struggling to justify that view, wouldn’t you, looking at his choice of travel companions. I think he has at some point in his life indulged. Whether he still does is a secret between him and that big blue box.

On the subject of a River Song hate group on Facebook:

Oh, you’re talking about the Internet. Twelve people and their talking dog. Ignore it! I never go online. The Internet stuff is bonkers. You must not look at it.

On what's coming up for River Song in Series Six:

Well, you will find out who she is and what’s going on and how it all makes sense. And that will explain a number of things. I’m writing the episode right now where the Doctor finds out who she is. We’re not just going to endlessly tease.

Some interesting stuff, especially the part where Moffat claims to never go online.  Of course he doesn't.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mid-Ohio-Con 2010: Day Two Photos

Mid-Ohio-Con 2010 ended today and I have the sore feet and nearly-dislocated shoulder from lugging around all those 50%-off hardcover collections to show for it.  It was great to see several of my friends again and have fun chatting with comics creators and cosplayers. 

And as promised, some more photos...

Tom Servo and friends of the Satellite of Love

Frank Quitely-era Emma Frost

Chewbacca and some other people who only wish they were as awesome as Chewbacca

Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Robot Monster from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  At least I hope it was Robot Monster...
And just as before, you can find more photos from today at my Facebook account.

See you next year!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mid-Ohio-Con 2010: Day One Photos

Well, Day One of Mid-Ohio-Con 2010 is officially in the history books.  A surprisingly big turnout today, which resulted in an equally surprising line just to get in.  Doesn't look like the recession is hurting the geek demographic much.

Oh, look...photos!
Please do not touch...especially there.

The only time I will EVER post a photo of someone dressed as a Stormtrooper

The Avengers, with Thor practicing for his appearance in an '80s metal video
It's...the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, with Mini-Louis Tully and Slimer!
Zombie Deadpool heads on artist Arthur Sudyam's table.  Shhhhh!

Want to see more pictures?  Check them out on my Facebook account!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

DOCTOR WHO Series 5 "Meanwhile, in the TARDIS" Spoilers


Probably the most anticipated special features on the upcoming Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series DVD/Blu-Ray set are two new "Meanwhile, in the TARDIS..." bonus scenes featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond, and Doctor Who TV has posted the specific details:

‘Meanwhile in the TARDIS’ comprises two new ‘mini-episodes’ written by Steven Moffat.  The first one takes place just before the start of The Beast Below when Amy was floating in space above Starship UK. In the scene, Amy fires off a bunch of familiar questions about the nature of the Doctor and the TARDIS.

The second one is after Amy kisses the Doctor at the conclusion of Flesh and Stone. After ‘fighting’ off Amy’s advances, the Doctor tells her about his previous female companions and pictures of them are shown on the TARDIS console screen (below). Amy is left quite startled by the amount.


Between this and mentions in the recent Sarah Jane Adventures story "Death of the Doctor," Polly, Jo Grant and some of the other female companions are getting some nice continuity love this year.  Here's hoping more of them get to return to TV at some point down the line...
 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Which Comic Series Should Follow THE WALKING DEAD?

The premiere of AMC's TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard's The Walking Dead ongoing comic book series apparently did very well in the ratings this past Sunday night.  So well, in fact, that it brought in 5.3 million viewers for a 2.7 rating in the 18-49 key demographic, becoming AMC's highest-rated series ever and beating out CBS mainstay series such as CSI Miami and The Amazing Race.

So given the tendency of other television networks to rapidly jump on hot trends, as opposed to developing one of their own, it only stands to reason that they're already looking around for other comic book series they can mine for a series of their own.  And as you might imagine, it just so happens that I have five suggestions already lined up:

1.  Ex Machina -- This brilliant series by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris examines the life of Mitchell Hundred (also known as The Great Machine), the world's first and only superhero, who, in the wake of his actions on 9/11, is elected Mayor of New York City.  The story is set during Hundred's term in office and interwoven with flashbacks to his past as the Great Machine.  Through this, the series explores both the political situations Hundred finds himself in, and the mysteries surrounding his superpowers that allow him to communicate with and control electronics and machinery.  Essentially, it's The West Wing meets Watchmen, which means it probably would work best on AMC or HBO.



2.  Preacher -- This 66-issue series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon tells the story of Jesse Custer, a down-and-out preacher in the small Texas town of Annville.  Custer was accidentally possessed by the supernatural creature named Genesis, the product of the unauthorized, unnatural coupling of an angel and a demon, giving him the power called "The Word" which allows him to command and control others.

Custer, driven by a strong sense of right and wrong, goes on a journey across the United States attempting to literally find God, who abandoned Heaven the moment Genesis was born.  He's joined by his old girlfriend Tulip O'Hare, as well as a hard-drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy.  With Preacher's highly adult themes, I can't see any other network than HBO or Showtime doing this series proper justice.

3.  Transmetropolitan -- A current favorite of mine, despite being out for several years, is a 60-issue cyberpunk series by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson.  It chronicles the struggles of Spider Jerusalem, infamous renegade gonzo journalist of the future, an homage to gonzo journalism founder Hunter S. Thompson.  Spider dedicates himself to fighting the corruption and abuse of power of two successive United States presidents.  Together with his female "filthy assistants," Spider wages a crusade to keep this near-futuristic world from becoming worse than it already is while dealing with the trappings of fame and power, brought about due to the popularity of his articles.  It's a great series disturbingly relevant to today's social and political climate, but the sheer outrageousness could only work on HBO, Showtime or possibly Starz.

4.  Starman -- No, not the old series starring Robert Hays based on the movie starring Jeff Bridges.  This modern classic by James Robinson, Tony Harris and Peter Snejbjerg features the 80-issue saga of Jack Knight, son of the original Starman, Ted Knight, reluctantly taking over his father's mantle after the death of his older brother David.  As something of a "black sheep" of the Knight family with a fondness for antique collectibles rather than superheroics, Jack gradually adjusts to his new role as the protector of Opal City in a layered generational saga reaching to all ends of the DC Comics universe.  Interestingly, this almost became a TV series, until the WB's adaptation of DC's Birds of Prey tanked in the ratings and the project was shelved.  I feel AMC would be the perfect home for such a series, but failing that, it would be a good fit for either FX or TNT.


5.  Global Frequency -- Another series by writer Warren Ellis along with various artists, this is a science-fiction series about an independent, covert intelligence organization headed by a former intelligence agent who uses the alias of Miranda Zero.  There are reportedly 1,001 people on the Global Frequency, forming an active on-call team communicating by specially modified video mobile phones hrough a central dispatch system coordinated by a young woman code-named Aleph.  The purpose of the organization is to protect and rescue the world from the consequences of the various secret projects that the governments of the world have established, which are unknown to the public at large.  The basic premise here is Mission: Impossible meets The X-Files and this also almost became a WB television series, even getting to an actual pilot episode starring Michelle Forbes as Miranda Zero.  I have to think that FX, TNT or even FOX (provided FOX could keep from cancelling it within 6 episodes or less) would be a good home for such a series.
So those are my suggestions.  How about yours?